I’ve often said, “Don’t talk to me about race – unless you plan to speak the truth,” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Fear of a Black President does exactly that. Coates illustrates vividly what I and so many others have said about President Obama: His color is holding him back. It is literally creating problems – and illustrating others – about the state of race relations in this country. What makes this piece different from so many others? Flawless execution, historical context and good old fashioned fact gathering.
The examples are stunning. Coates elevates truth telling to a level of sophistication that only comes with the right forum and brains. When speaking of the negative impact Pres. Obama’s comments on the Treyvon Martin situation he said:
“For most of American history, our political system was premised on two conflicting facts—one, an oft-stated love of democracy; the other, an undemocratic white supremacy inscribed at every level of government. In warring against that paradox, African Americans have historically been restricted to the realm of protest and agitation. But when President Barack Obama pledged to “get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he was not protesting or agitating. He was not appealing to federal power—he was employing it. The power was black—and, in certain quarters, was received as such.
No amount of rhetorical moderation could change this. It did not matter that the president addressed himself to “every parent in America.” His insistence that “everybody [pull] together” was irrelevant. It meant nothing that he declined to cast aspersions on the investigating authorities, or to speculate on events. Even the fact that Obama expressed his own connection to Martin in the quietest way imaginable—“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”—would not mollify his opposition. It is, after all, one thing to hear “I am Trayvon Martin” from the usual placard-waving rabble-rousers. Hearing it from the commander of the greatest military machine in human history is another.”
I believe that racism exists. I also believe that too often overt cries of racism are either excuses for laziness or are inappropriate given the likely response and the needed action. I hesitated to even share this article because I’m tired of being seen as a Black woman first, and Kellye Whitney second. But I live in the world, and I’m too smart to delude myself about what is and what is not. For me there is no denying that Coates is right: “Barack Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as its president.”
There is a coterie of people in this country who are terrified that there is a Black man currently working in the highest office in the land. They are experiencing a desperate rear guard reaction to this state of affairs because it casts a shining white light/question mark on so many “truths” they have propogated about Black people to date. Essentially, President Obama is a threat to the traditional, established power structure, just as women were. That’s why women had to fight tooth and nail – and are still fighting for parity in many ways – for the vote.
Coates writes: “The idea that blacks should hold no place of consequence in the American political future has affected every sector of American society, transforming whiteness itself into a monopoly on American possibilities.”
Possibilities are what America was built on. They are it’s foundation, the source of the American dream. If President Obama can do this *dum dum dum*, what else can ‘they’ do?
Journalism at its best. Well done.